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Mormonism: A Survey and Biblical Critique

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Mormon Literature

Achieving a Celestial Marriage, Student Manual. Salt Lake City, Utah: Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976, 1992.

Ballard, M. Russell. Our Search for Happiness: An Invitation to Understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1993.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1988.

Deseret News 1991-1992 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1990.

Gospel Principles. rev. ed. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979.

Hinckley, Gordon B. What of the Mormons? 5th ed. rev. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1947, 1954.

McConkie, Bruce R. Mormon Doctrine. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1966.

Smith, Joseph. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1976.

Smith, Joseph Fielding. Doctrines of Salvation. 3 vols. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1954-1956.

Christian Literature

Cares, Mark J. Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

Larson, Charles M. By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri. rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Institute for Religious Research, 1992.

McKeever, Bill, and Eric Johnson. Questions to Ask Your Mormon Friend: Effective Ways to Challenge a Mormon's Arguments Without Being Offensive. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1994.

Marquardt, H. Michael, and Wesley P. Walters. Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record. Salt Lake City, Utah: Smith Research Associates, 1994. Distributed by Signature Books, Salt Lake City, UT.

Reed, David A., and John R. Farkas. Mormons Answered Verse by Verse. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1992.

Rhodes, Ron, and Marian Bodine. Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1995.

Tanner, Jerald , and Sandra. The Changing World of Mormonism. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1980, 1981.


Kevin James Bywater
Summit Ministries
P.O. Box 207
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
(719) 685-9103

Bill McKeever
Mormonism Research Ministry
Dept. Q
P. O. Box 20705
El Cajon, CA 92021

Jerald and Sandra Tanner
Utah Lighthouse Ministry
P.O. Box 1884
Salt Lake City, UT 84110

James Walker
Watchman Fellowship
P.O. Box 15251
Arlington, TX 76094

by Kevin Bywater of Summit Ministries

There are at least two approaches to use in witnessing to Mormons. We can either debate the doctrines of Mormonism (baptism for the dead, “burning” in the bosom, Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, the validity of the Book of Mormon, the Trinity, “God was once a man,” “protective” underwear, etc.), or we can present the gospel Biblically. One creates an atmosphere of contention and often leaves the Christian feeling frustrated, while the other creates an atmosphere of concern for the eternal welfare of the Mormon. Our goal should be to win a soul to Christ rather than merely win a doctrinal argument.

One point of frustration for the Christian is that Mormons often agree when they hear words such as “salvation,” or Jesus as “Savior.” The problem is that their understanding of the words differs from the biblical revelation of the words. “Salvation” for a Mormon can mean the salvation of all humanity—when the “Savior” will eventually raise everyone from the dead.

Rather than speak of “going to heaven,” the Christian should ask what the Mormon has to do to be at peace with the “heavenly Father.” This is language they can understand, and will reveal the basis for their salvation. Are they trusting in self-righteousness, or solely in the righteousness of Christ?

Mark J. Cares writes:

Although Mormons commonly appear self-assured and self-righteous, many are undergoing great stress. This is because Mormonism holds up perfection as an attainable goal. The one Bible passage the Mormon church constantly holds up before its membership is Matthew 5:48: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. They then expound on it with numerous exhortations to strive for perfection. Spencer W. Kimball, for example, wrote: Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal (Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

This emphasis on perfection permeates every aspect of a Mormons life. Its most common form is the unending demand on them to be worthy. Every privilege in Mormonism is conditioned on a persons worthiness. Kimball wrote: All blessings are conditional. I know of none that are not (Remember Me, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Christians need to recognize that this constant striving for perfection—and the resultant stress it produces—offers an excellent opening to talk to Mormons about Jesus and the imputed perfection we receive through Him.

Reinforce their predicament. Average hard-working Mormons view this striving for perfection as a heavy but manageable burden. They can cultivate illusions of perfection because the Mormon church has greatly watered down the concept of sin. Consequently, the Christian witness needs to show Mormons both the severity of their predicament and the impossibility of their becoming perfect. In other words, they need to have a face-to-face confrontation with the stern message of God's Law, because through the Law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:21).

The Law must first convince Mormons of the severity of their predicament. The best way to accomplish this is to tell them, lovingly but firmly, that they are going to outer darkness. (Outer darkness is the closest concept in Mormonism to an eternal hell.) Most Mormons have never been told this, nor have they ever considered that possibility for themselves, since Mormonism teaches that nearly everyone will enter one of Mormonisms three kingdoms of heaven. Therefore, until you introduce the thought of eternal suffering, they will not feel any real urgency to take your witness to heart. On the contrary, most, if they are willing to talk at all, will view any religious conversation as nothing more than an interesting intellectual discussion.

Christians often hesitate to be this blunt. They feel that if anything will turn Mormons off, telling them that they are going to outer darkness surely will. I shared that fear when I began using this approach. To my amazement, however, rejection wasn't the reaction I received. Most have been shocked, but they were also eager to know why I would say such a thing. The key is to speak this truth with love, in such a way that our concern for their souls is readily apparent.

Alerting Mormons to the very real danger of their going to outer darkness opens the door to telling them the basis for that judgment—which is, they are not meeting God's requirement for living with Him (they are not presently perfect). The key to explaining this is the present imperative, be perfect, in Matthew 5:48.